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Saturday, October 4, 2014

"Robin Redbreast" is NOT about the Robin in Texas

 
The bird that inspired many tales, including the children’s story “Robin Redbreast “ is not the same kind of robin that we see here, although both have a red/orange breast.  The stories are about the European Robin (pictured above) a bird native to the British isles and the inspiration for the 15th century poem. The red-breasted bird we see below and in Texas is officially named the American Robin and is a totally different species.  It lives in north Texas year ‘round, but is most active (and more likely to be seen) in the spring.
 
 

Tasty bugs!

In Texas, all but one species of wild bird (even those that eat seed like Cardinals) feed their newborns nothing but insects. They’re easier to digest! When they leave the nest, young birds learn to find and eat seed – maybe at your birdfeeder with the help of parents.  The exception is Finches, whose nestlings can eat seeds.
Insects are, hpefully, abundant in the spring, unless you rake up all leaves on the ground (where they overwinter), or use a lot of chemicals. About 96% of insects are harmless anyway -many are even beneficial
 
 
OWEN YOST, in addition to being a blogger, is a licensed Landscape Architect emeritus who has lived and worked in north Texas for over 30 years. He is the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award of the Native Plant Society of Texas, and is a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), International Federation of Landscape Architects, National Wildlife Federation and the Audubon Society. His office is at Yost87@charter.net in Denton.
 
American Robin

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Maybe not in Pennsylvania or Illinois, but NOW is by far the best planting time in north Texas


In north Texas, the very best time to plant is NOW. Not in the spring like up north. If you’re new to Texas, this may come as a surprise. But if you’ve been planting things here for several years (like me) you’ve learned to follow Mother Nature’s example. So, if you want to attract birds next spring, plant hardy birdscape plants now.

All of the most hardy and effective plants are Texas natives.  I’ve had the most success with the woody, perennial kind, including shrubs and trees. Of course, you won’t actually see growth until next year, but the roots will be growing like crazy all winter. Choose the right plants and I’m positive that birds will hang out in your yard.

It has to do with the fact that plant roots can’t grow through frozen soil.  Here, the ground may freeze a quarter inch deep (if at all). Even then the ground is thawed by mid-afternoon. All woody trees and shrubs do best if planted now. Also all ground covers and most flowers – all but the very tender species that could be killed by a long, hard frost (if we have one) Up north the ground may freeze solid many inches deep, possibly all winter long.  And “up north” is where gardening advice columns were written, originally.
Sumac & friend

My favorites, to plant now, include mistflower, Mexican plum, beautyberry, sumac, lantana, flame acanthus, Maximillian sunflower and several prairie grasses. Don’t forget the mulch!

 

What’s vertical migration?       Unlike regular bird migration which involves flying south for hundreds of miles, vertical migrants may just fly down a slope. They may make the short journey from a mountain down to the valley floor. Thus they spend the winter in better weather conditions, and with more available food, that isn't covered up by ice and snow. 

 

 

OWEN YOST, in addition to being a blogger, is a licensed Landscape Architect emeritus who has lived and worked in north Texas for over 30 years. He is the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award of the Native Plant Society of Texas, and is a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), International Federation of Landscape Architects, National Wildlife Federation and the Audubon Society. His office is at Yost87@charter.net in Denton.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Chickadees remember where they (or you) put that seed


In a study of Black-capped Chickadees, the portion of the brain used to process spacial information (the hippocampus) varies in size during a typical year. It enlarges in the fall and winter, when seeds are harder to locate, coinciding with seed-hoarding and -finding activity. It shrinks in the spring, when feats of memory are no longer crucial.


 

Careful of those hot-air balloon injuries!   During the past 50 years, only 48 U.S. residents contracted rabies from bats (not "died from"); that's less than one per year. That’s less than the number of hot-air balloon injuries in the whole country! (for comparison: in 2001 alone, 15,989 people contracted TB). Nationally, less than half of one percent of bats even have rabies. Bats aren’t rabies vectors anyway.
Just to be super-safe, however, never pick up a bat from the ground with your bare hands.
 

OWEN YOST, in addition to being a blogger, is a licensed Landscape Architect emeritus who has lived and worked in north Texas for over 30 years. He is the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award of the Native Plant Society of Texas, and is a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), International Federation of Landscape Architects, National Wildlife Federation and the Audubon Society. His office is at Yost87@charter.net in Denton.